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Sales is about creating understanding. It is about the sellers understanding what drives our clients to make decisions, and it is about helping buyers understand the consequences of NOT taking action and the other consequences of buying. That’s simple enough on its surface, but the danger often comes from oversimplifying it.

Most CRMs have a “Closed Lost” field, and usually it includes a drop down menu to select the reason for losing the sale. That makes it easy for us to make a very fundamental mistake in believing that winning or losing the sale comes down to one and only one reason. 

The trap that creates is that if you believe that your clients buy or pass based on one reason, you are likely to start selling to only that factor. The most common example I see of this is price. In several industries where we have clients, the customers have done a good job of commoditizing the whole industry. Eager for the short term business, many providers have made it all about price, and a casual observer could get the impression that price and only price decide who wins. Yet my clients in these industries are not the cheapest, and yet still find success in winning deals, proving the fallacy in the price being the single determinant factor. We’ve worked with them to uncover the other factors that affect buying, and even though it might be true that price is the BIGGEST factor for most clients, it is nowhere near being the only factor. My client just needs to clearly qualify the clients and set expectations on price before sending out proposals.

What does this mean to you as a sales person? It means that you may actually need to either do research, or leverage research to understand the factors that cause your clients to buy, or not to buy. (apologies to Shakespeare for that one.)

About five years ago, I was working with a client on landing him his first big deal. Sure enough, the subject of price came up, and the client was quick to point out that we were about 20% higher than other companies, and a full 30% higher than the lowest bid. Because we’d worked on it ahead of time, and done our research homework, we knew that in this case, there was a hidden cost based on the shelf life of the product. The implications of having to swap out this safety equipment every two years included serious amounts of work and effort (hence cost).

When we brought this factor into the conversation, the client was able to justify the 20% increase in price when comparing it to getting double the shelf life on the equipment. 

You cannot make a comparison using only one factor and get an honest read on the situation. That would be like saying 95 degrees in Orlando is the same as 95 degrees in Vegas. It’s not. Almost no decisions are actually made with only one factor under consideration. Certainly no smart decisions.